Visualize not just where the threat might be hiding, but what to do if you are actually confronted. Who would hear if you screamed for help? What are the possibilities of escape? If you get cornered, what can you do while the assailant is closing distance? If you are driving a car and somebody pulls the door open and jumps in, what would be your course of action? Can you drive into a ditch? Bump into another car to get attention at a stoplight? The more I think about it, the more certain I am that if I were faced with an assailant wielding a weapon and telling me to get into his car, I would choose to fight even at the risk of getting stabbed or shot. What you do is your decision, but I would rather risk getting killed now than risk getting tortured first and then killed. My opinion is that assailants frequently rely on the victim’s fear and inability to fight back. Of course, you wouldn’t want to react the same with everybody. You must also determine how dangerous your opponent really is. If a coworker threatens you, it might be better to call for the police than to hit him. If a drunk threatens you, he may not have the balance and coordination to chase you or do any real damage.

How do you avoid panicking when a threat is imminent? If you have thought about it beforehand, you will most likely know whom to call for help. Every time you access a potentially dangerous area, know what you are getting into and be ready to act. Don’t become complacent. Don’t allow your conversation with a friend to dampen your awareness. Think about the what ifs. Your hearing and eyesight should be intact. Talking on your cell phone on your way to the parking lot at night is a bad idea, because it may distract your focus away from your surroundings and may tie up your hands.

1. Visualize places that you frequent: the parking lot outside the grocery store or outside your workplace, the movie theater or the mall, the airport when you are traveling or picking up somebody. Your home is probably the most frequently visited place that is often overlooked. Mentally go through how you would assess the area before entering. Where is your money? If you have one or both hands free, how fast can you get to your keys? Might somebody be hiding in the bushes by your front door? What can you use as a weapon? There are many objects in your home that can be used as a weapon: a lamp, a paperweight or bookend, an ornament, etc. Pay attention to where they are.

2. If the assailant enters your house after you have gone to bed at night, how can you defend yourself and what are your escape routes? What can you use as a weapon? How can you get to the phone?

3. Visualize yourself getting attacked. Does the attacker approach you in a threatening manner? Does he say anything? Does he try a surprise attack? What is his motive?

4. How can you deal with the situation? What are your options? Is there more than one way you can defend yourself? This exercise helps you develop awareness and judgment, and also helps you review what to do in an actual assault. Of course, it is not likely the assault will happen exactly the way you envisioned it, which is why you need to visualize many possible scenarios.

5. What if the assailant is close enough to touch you? What if he wrestles you to the ground? What if he stabs you or cuts you with a knife? What if he forces you into his car? Visualize the assault at many different stages, so that you can recognize it and avoid it at its earliest stage.

6. Imagine the worst possible scenario: imagine yourself defeated. Then go through the drill again. What could you have done differently? Visualize yourself winning. Some 52 Blocks instructors teach to always visualize success and not permit thoughts of defeat. But I believe that touching on the possibility of defeat arms you for success. When you understand what should not happen, you will force yourself to find a solution that can reverse the situation. Visualizing defeat may also make you angry and increase your will to fight for protection.

The beauty of 52 Blocks visualization exercises is that you can stop an attack at any point and take your time to determine the best course of action. Visualization exercises help you discover possibilities that you may not ordinarily think of. Is the attacker reaching out to grab you? Is he reaching out to strike you? Does he have a weapon? What is his other hand doing? What are his height and build? What is his physical condition? What does he smell like? What targets does he leave open? Can you use his clothing to restrict his movement? Can you use your own clothing as defense against the attack? Visualize yourself cut or injured. Visualize yourself on the ground with the attacker on top of you. Visualize a gun pointed at your head from the rear seat in your car. What would you do?

It is also possible that at some point you will be an observer of another person trying to defend himself. If you are the only witness, how can you help him? What can you use in the environment as a weapon? How will you approach the assailant without risk of getting attacked? Can you launch a surprise attack, and what will you do if you are successful? What if the assailant diverts his attention to you? Can you solicit help from the person you were initially trying to help? How? Can you make it a two-on-one exchange where you and the other victim take up roles as attackers? If you end up seriously hurting the assailant or rendering him unconscious and there is no one near, how do you deal with the situation? Do you run and get help? Leave him there alone? What can you use for tying his hands and feet together? Do you place him in your car? Visualizing every possible scenario and overtraining builds confidence and muscle memory.

So, you see, there are many questions you need to ask to trigger your own and other 52 Blocks students’ learning process. However, it is not enough to ask these questions without also researching the validity of what you are learning. When learning a technique intended for self-defense, find out what it really takes to use it successfully.


Finally, how long should the self-defense seminar last? How long does an effective system of sell-defense take to learn? Each system is likely to have its own set of limitations. If you are concerned with true self-defense and not martial arts, you probably ought to study from a variety of instructors, learn as much as possible from each, and then move on. If you study only one art for many years, you will be bound by that art’s limitations and failures, often without realizing it. It is unlikely that one instructor can teach all aspects of fighting and all situations one might encounter. Because of the instructor’s background, she is likely to favor certain techniques over others. But this does not mean that the techniques will work best for you in particular. I once heard a martial artist say that the reverse punch was the best 52 Blocks technique for a self-defense situation. What did he base his belief on? Is it possible that he had trained in a Japanese or Korean hard style for most of his life?

When you have trained in a particular style of martial art, you are also likely to have trained with others in that particular style. Consider the fact that your training partners are normally cooperative. In my opinion, this is why Aikido techniques send people flying distances of several yards. If your opponent did not cooperate, she would be more likely to go straight down rather than 20 feet away. — INSTRUCTOR TIP —

Not every person may be able to use every tech- nique to the same degree of proficiency. What does it really take to unbalance an assailant, to wrestle him to the ground, and to hold him there until help arrives? These are issues you need to examine and experiment with through practice. — STUDENT TIP —

When you seek an instructor to teach you self-defense, hopefully she will share her knowledge freely while recognizing her limitations. With your best interest in mind, she may want to send you to others who can fill in the gaps. If not, seek other instruction on your own as soon as you feel your training is stagnating.

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